Social Media Panel Offers Sage Advice

May 05, 2011 9:38 PM  By

To do social media or not to do social media, that was the question during Tuesday’s power panel discussion at the MCM Live Conference in New York.

Other questions that came up: Which networks are best for what, who should do it in the company, and how do you measure social media efforts.

Social media gives you unprecedented access to customers and a real opportunity to connect with them, said panelist Debra Ellis, founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting. “But you don’t know always who you’re talking to, so you have to have a focused strategy.”

Most merchants involved in social media typically use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, Ellis said. There’s also huge interest in YouTube.

Amy Africa, chief imagination officer for Eight By Eight, admitted she was anti-social media for quite some time, but she has changed her mind about it.

“Social is really good, if you know how to use it,” Africa admitted. A key advantage: “You can use it to impact search engines,” she said.

But Africa said merchants shouldn’t rely on the number of Facebook followers or “likes” to gauge success of engagement, because a “social customer has likely never ordered from you.”

A unique campaign or contest can go viral via social media and introduce your brand to a whole new set of customers, said Ben Kirshner, founder/CEO of Elite SEM. Be sure to track all your social efforts, he said. “Put something measurable in place.”

Who should handle social media in the company? It’s not something you should turn over to a snarky intern, the panel agreed.

But Kirshner said a lower-level employee can monitor a company’s social media strategies on a daily basis—as long as those strategies come from the high-level administrators.

And there are plenty of tools to help you monitor and measure social media efforts. “Use Google alerts, because the tools are what’s important,” Africa said.

But you’ve got to build it your social media program to be successful, Africa said. Your brand’s Facebook page, for instance, “just can’t be a wall.”

Social media is a new discipline that’s constantly evolving, but it’s now in its “terrible twos” stage, Ellis said, so you have to keep on top of it. Remember, “it’s not about conversation, it’s about conversion,” she said.